Testimony begins in hearing for two charged in Durand teen's - ABC 12 – WJRT – Flint, MI

Testimony begins in hearing for two charged in Durand teen's beating death


(10/23/12) - The two men accused of beating and killing a Durand teenager this summer were back in court Wednesday morning. 

Benjamin Tatro, 17, died about a week after being at a house party in Burton, where police allege the attacks occurred.

Richard Smith, now 19, and 23-year-old Ricky Zinn are each charged with one count of open murder. Wednesday marked the start of their preliminary hearings which determine if there is enough evidence for them to stand trial.

The first person called to testify was a woman driving to work about 9:20 a.m. Aug. 20. She described seeing Tatro walking north on Saginaw Street away from I-475.

"He was beaten so badly that his face was swollen," said Helen Wilcenski. "He had blood coming from his ears and he had bruises on his back even - marks on his back."

Wilcenski said she called 911 and followed him to a home on Carman near Wells in Burton.

She said she watched and waited for about an hour until police arrived.

Wilcenski said she saw two men at the home too. One of them was Smith. She couldn't recall if Zinn was the other.

Police called her a couple of weeks later and told her Tatro had died.

The second and last person to testify Wednesday was Danielle Richert - a friend of Tatro's. She was at that Burton home with him in the hours before Wilcenski saw him walking back to it.

They were drinking. She said she drank about a pint and a half of vodka herself and was smoking marijuana. She said Tatro was drunk and acting cocky, at one point even throwing something off the porch roof area.

"People were yelling at him for him doing that," Richert said. But things settled down until she saw him being attacked by Zinn.

"He was hitting him real fast and I just ran over there," she said. She says Smith was standing next to him and Zinn told her Tatro insulted him with a swear word.

"I told them they needed to carry him inside and clean the blood off of his face," Richert said.

They did. Tatro was conscious, but mumbling and crying. She figures it was about 1 or 1:30 a.m. at that point.

"They cleaned him up and gave him a blanket," Richert testified.  "I thought it was all over after that."

But Richert said roughly five minutes later, she saw Smith attacking Tatro, hitting him in a face a few times with Zinn nearby.

"I yelled at them again and looked at Ben and realized his face...so much blood was pouring out of his nose and mouth and he was completely babbling. (I) Couldn't even understand what he was saying," she said.

The hearing continues Dec. 11.

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